billy-hurtBILLY HURT

Patuxent Music
CD 260

All-instrumental fiddle records have been at a premium of late. Scanning BU from March 2014 to March 2015, I count three. This solo debut from Billy Hurt, an old hand at the sideman’s role and a current member of Karl Shiflett’s Big Country Show, makes four.

Dominating this recording are the ten old-time tracks. On each, Hurt takes all the solos and does so with a nice set of variations that are creatively diverse without detracting from the melody. With the exception of the duo of Hurt and guitarist Brennen Ernst on “Old Jake Gillie,” they consist of quartets and trios of Hurt backed by Jeremy Stephens on guitar, Robert Montgomery on banjo and Kris Shiflett on bass. Those with Shiflett’s bass, such as “Poca River Blues,” have a bit more pop, but Stephens’ (as well as Ernst’s) bass string guitar runs shine better in the trios. Hurt is a long-time devotee of Clark Kessinger and includes four of his compositions—the previously-mentioned tunes, plus “Red Bird” and “Richmond Polka.” They stand nicely beside “Chinky Pin,” “Salt River,” and Kenny Baker’s “Grassy Fiddle Blues.”

The Shiflett Band—Karl on guitar, Kris on bass, plus Ernst on banjo and C.J. Lewandowski on mandolin—appears here on four tracks. Those four have the strongest bluegrass feel and are among the eight that feature solos other than Hurt’s fiddle. They also have a smoother and unhurried cast to them, ranging from “Lynchburg Town,” with its Charlie Poole overtones, to “Sally Ann Johnson” and to Hurt’s own “Richard’s Rag,” featuring an ear-catching slightly modern B section.

Countering all those fiddle numbers are three jazz-oriented covers, including “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” and “Oh, Lady Be Good.” Their inclusion, with solos from Ernst and mandolinist Danny Knicely, make for a stunning change of pace and round out a welcome addition to the fiddle record legacy. (Patuxent Music,       P.O. Box 572, Rockville MD 20848,

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